Before you ask, no, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures -- which is too bad, because that rumored “Skull Canyon” PC from Intel is real. It’s small, it’s thin, and it sports a SkullTrail logo.
We were hoping to cajole Intel into showing us anything related to the mini STX form factor we’ve been hearing about, but instead, we saw a 4 x 8-inch SFF PC that’s less than an inch thick. The chassis, which is close to being finalized, was a dark metallic gray, with slightly rounded-off edges.
It will run an (as yet unreleased) H-series Skylake (45 W) processor with Iris Pro graphics, and it will be soldered (BGA). The code name, as the initial rumors suggested, will be “Skull Canyon.” The tiny PC will offer DDR4 RAM and (likely) an M.2 SSD.
That slim little chassis will surely heat up fast with a 45 W CPU, but Intel seems confident that it has a sufficient cooling solution. The front and rear of the chassis (that’s the part that’s four inches across) have a metal mesh, and there’s a small fan inside. Of course, with the chassis at just an inch thick, the fan has to be horizontally oriented, so it’s sort of a “squirrel cage” setup.
There are four USB 3.0 ports, a full LAN port, and an SD card slot, and for video out, there’s DisplayPort, HDMI and a USB-C port. That last bit -- the USB-C port -- is key to the Skull Canyon PC, because it runs Thunderbolt 3.
As we’ve seen from the likes of Razer, Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C should enable the system to use a non-proprietary external GPU dock (while receiving power from the dock itself). The dock could also serve as a peripherals hub for your mouse, keyboard and monitor. Thus, like the Razer ultrabook and dock, that slim brick plus a desktop graphics dock could get you remarkable PC performance for the size.
Intel was tight-lipped about any plans for a GPU dock of its own, but from our pestering, we inferred that at the very least, it’s being discussed internally.
Intel is positioning this PC as a gaming device -- or more fairly, a gaming PC -- and specifically, it could be a Steam Machine. (We were told that the Skull Canyon PC would not ship with Windows, so we’re just doing the speculative arithmetic here.)
The Skull Canyon PC should launch Q2 -- perhaps at GDC. The price is TBD.